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Everything to Know About Google Analytics 4 (GA4)


End of the road for Universal Analytics

The eCommerce felt shockwaves when Google announced that they will be retiring the popular and well-used Google Universal Analytics solution. Standard Universal Analytics properties won’t be collecting any data starting July 1, 2023, and this is huge news, particularly for the eCommerce sector, as the difference between having relevant or irrelevant data directly impacts sales.

Google Analytics is, without a doubt, one of the most popular tracking tools available. You can gather data that will help you make the right decisions to grow your company. Google Analytics can monitor key metrics such as page views, bounce rates, session times, traffic sources, search terms, and other important information about visitors and website traffic. There is also Real-time tracking that lets you see how many people are on your site at any given time, from where, and what they’re currently browsing; this all means that you are permanently in the loop regarding website performance.

These basic metrics apply to all websites; however, eCommerce stores can go one step further and use Enhanced eCommerce Reporting. This opens a whole new dimension to tracking with Google Analytics that unlocks other important metrics like Conversion Rate, Product List Views (checkout step drop-off), Per-Product Performance, Measurement of Cart Events, and much more.

You can perform A/B testing to determine which version of your content is most popular with your users. Google has replaced the option that allows content experiments with Google Optimize, which offers similar functionality.

Without a doubt, Universal Analytics has been an outstanding must-have tool for all websites with many amazing benefits. So why is it being discontinued? The simple answer is: It’s getting an upgrade. Universal Analytics will retire to make way for Google Analytics 4 (GA4).

What Google Analytics (GA4) is?

Google Analytics 4 is a privacy-first property that Google describes as its next-generation measurement tool. It improves on existing Universal Analytics properties and uses a future-proof and privacy-oriented approach. It also integrates Google’s advertising platforms with great depth and features and uses machine learning to gain insights about user journeys across different platforms and devices.

Google Analytics 4 uses advanced machine learning algorithms to analyze your website data and identify significant trends. For example, Google Analytics 4 can detect and alert you to a product or product type growing in sales because of increased demand. This will allow you to make data-driven business decisions. Google Analytics 4’s enhanced capabilities that machine learning provides allow it to fill in any data gaps that may exist due to software blocking tracking scripts or cookie consent rules. This makes the data more relevant.

Google Analytics 4 is built on the Web + App platform that Google beta-tested in 2019. It centralizes traffic and data from both mobile and web apps. If your brand has a smartphone app, it is no longer necessary to separate your data from two platforms (Google Analytics Firebase for mobile apps and Google Analytics 4 for web traffic) because Google Analytics 4 presents a single view for both data streams.

What’s Happening to Universal Analytics?

GA’s previous version (Universal Analytics) is being discontinued. That means you will need to upgrade to GA4 if you wish to take advantage of any new features.

This also means that any new website or app you create will be considered a GA4 property.

Universal Analytics was designed for older generations and was optimized for desktops, independent sessions, and cookies. This method is quickly becoming obsolete, particularly since GA4 introduced multi-platform functionality and user-centric measurement.

Why switch from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4?

Since Universal Analytics will be retiring in 2023, it is worth considering switching to a Google Analytics 4 account if you are using Universal Analytics. While many reasons support this statement, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to close your existing Universal Analytics property; they can still be used in parallel. 

These are the top reasons to set up a Google Analytics 4 Property as soon as possible:

  1. Google’s machine-learning algorithms will give you a leg up on your competitors by allowing you to collect more relevant data. It can help you spot trends earlier to seize business opportunities before your competitors.
  2. GA4 allows you to start building historical data. Having historical data in the new platform will allow you to make data-driven business decisions to take your business forward, while the competitors will be wasting their building on other platforms.
  3. It will give AI the time needed to study your business patterns. AI requires time to see patterns and learn from them, which means the earlier you start, the better it will be. As AI can make assumptions based on existing data, the more data you have, the more accurate it will be.

Since everyone knows that website management is not possible without the relevant data, therefore, Google Analytics 4 is a must-have solution. As GA4 needs time to understand your business properly, the sooner you do it, the better it will be.

What’s new in Google Analytics 4?

We’ve been enjoying a number of exciting new features of GA4 since it was released, including:

Event-based tracking

Event-based tracking is a feature that will take some time to get used to. It provides a consistent data structure across web reports and apps.

Instead of relying on page views, sessions, and users, we are now learning to communicate in events and parameters. Although it is more complex, it gives you more control and customization, which means you will have more detailed data than ever.

Predictive reporting

GA4’s machine-learning algorithms and cutting-edge AI technology allow you to quickly (and accurately!) calculate revenue predictions, conversion probabilities, and average churn rates, all using gathered data. This allows you to forecast better than ever before.

This feature allows you to export your custom audiences to Google Ads or the Google Marketing Platform, allowing you to target high-value users and users who are about to leave.

Improved privacy controls

GA4 was designed with privacy in mind.

With it, you can have complete control over which users your data is collected from and how that data will be used in ads campaigns, all while helping you remain GDPR compliant.

This framework allows GA4 to expand its privacy features, hopefully keeping the platform running smoothly.

Free BigQuery export

With GA4, you can can export unsampled data to BigQuery even if you are a free user.

This gives you unique reporting options and allows for data analysis that is completely customized.

Track up to 300 events

Some exciting news: With GA4, you won’t need to hire developers each time you need something tracked.

Most of the basic events are tracked by default in GA4, and you can also create new events on the platform.

One can create upto 300’s of these events per property, which is plenty for most organizations.

Combined App + web view

Did you ever wish you could report web and mobile performance from one location? Now you can!

This process is significantly simplified when everything is in one place. In the past, These reports were pulled from different places. Now, you can create and deliver reports much faster by consolidating them.

Anomaly detection

GA4’s machine learning and AI technology, GA4’s Anomy detection automatically detects unusual events on your website and app and will provide reports on statistically significant findings.

Imagine, for instance, that your website was supposed to generate 500 leads through a campaign you run, but it generates none on the first day. That’s an anomaly.

Google Analytics uses historical data to detect anomalies (this can take approximately 90 days). This historical data is used as a control to give the anomaly detection program something to compare against.

This can be combined with Explorations for free! Allowing you to quickly generate line graphs and other useful reports that you can send to your entire team.

The key benefits of Google Analytics 4

Now that we have covered the most important features of GA4, it is time to get into why you should care. So, what are the business benefits of GA4?

Learn about your customer journey through all touchpoints

Instead of being exposed to disorganized data and disconnected sessions, you can now have the advantage of completely understanding your customer lifecycle.

GA4 has taken cues from third-party software and has integrated features that keep all your information in one place.

You can collect data from your website(s) & app(s) and collate it to make proactive and reactive plans.

Improve your ROI by using data-driven attribution

Data-driven attribution helps you to identify how your customer made a purchase. It will analyze all clicks, searches and other data to determine the customer’s journey.

Historically, all conversion credit has been given to the last ad clicked; however, this last ad may have only played a small role in converting customers. Data-driven attribution provides unique insight into decision-making and can help streamline your marketing efforts to achieve a higher ROI.

These data can be exported directly to Google Ads or the Google Marketing Platform to optimize your campaigns.

Get more value from your data

Your marketing budget will be more efficient if you use machine learning and GA4 AI.

GA4 lets you cut out inefficient marketing avenues and can help reduce customer drop-offs.

Ensure compliance while measuring engagement and conversions

GA4 was created to help you manage and minimize the risk of breaching your country’s data protection laws. It allows you to monitor metadata and cookies while maintaining key measurement functionality safely.

Fit your business’ growing needs

GA4 is designed to scale up to the enterprise level. It makes it easy to fulfil data governance requirements. Do you need multiple teams to have access to the data? No problem. Do you need to outsource GA management to an agency outside your organization? Easy!

Your Google Analytics requirements will grow as your business expands, and GA4 makes it easier to meet your growing demand.

Analytics 360 allows you to implement 125 custom dimensions, 400 audiences, and 50 conversion types per property, which should be enough for most organizations.

What are the downsides of Google Analytics 4?

Along with the numerous benefits of GA4, there are also some cons that you should consider before switching to it:

You may need to start with zero data

Google will begin collecting GA4 data when you create a GA4 account on your site. You won’t see any data from the past in the GA4 view. This means you can only compare recent data with previous years if you’ve been using GA4 for more than one year.

Although historical data isn’t deleted, it is stored in your Universal Analytics account. However, this data may not last forever. We recommend that you run both properties (GA and GA4) simultaneously. This will allow you to view your historical data and collect new data in GA4.

It will take some time to get used GA4

Google Analytics 4 comes with many changes that you need to understand.

If you are familiar with the legacy version of GAn, switching to the newer version will most likely be time-consuming.

As a result, this could cause delays in your analysis (at least temporarily) and impact key business decisions.

As we mentioned, it is a good idea to run both while you are still learning GA4. This will allow you to explore the platform at your own pace rather than trying to figure it out while the clock ticks.

Make the max out of your GA4

With all these new and exciting features, GA4 can be a little complex tool when getting started with it. If you have any questions about how to make the most of your GA4 or need support in making the most of the data you collect using GA, get in touch with our digital marketing specialists here at 18th Digitech. We use GA4 day in and day out, so we have already mastered this new platform.

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